How to: Write an Amazing Short Story

short-stories-1

So, now we’ve come to the end of our Writer’s Blog Short Story Week, you may be thinking of composing a short story of your own. But how exactly do you go about doing so? To help you out, here is a basic ‘How To’ guide for anyone considering turning their talents to the wonderful genre of the short story.

1. Know what a short story is

Before diving into any genre, it is important to understand the basics of that genre. Most definitions of a short story focus on the following key points:

  1. A short story is a prose narrative
  2. Is shorter than a novel
  3. Deals with limited characters
  4. Aims to create a single effect

Other definitions, however, are more concerned with word count, stating that a short story may range anywhere between 1,000 – 30,000 words. Anything over 30,000 words, however, tends to be considered ‘too long’, and crosses into the classification of a novella.

But how important are word counts? Well, if you are looking to have your work published, the word count can be extremely important. For instance, most literary magazines prefer their short story entries to be kept brief, and even stipulate a limit for all their submissions. You should always check the submission guidelines of any magazine you wish to send your work to. These guidelines can generally be found on the magazine’s website.

It is also crucial that you never underestimate the importance of reading. Read the form you hope to write in. To see a list of Classic short stories you could check out yesterday’s post.

2. Develop an Idea

Once you know a bit about the genre, and what is expected from a short story, you can begin creating one of your own. As with any fiction writing, this all begins with an idea. But where does a writer find ideas? When faced with this, very question, Neil Gaiman stated:

“You get ideas from daydreaming… You get ideas from asking yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?”

With this answer, Gaiman highlights the importance of the writer’s imagination in the process of developing a story. But what if your imagination needs a little prompting? Although daydreaming can be an excellent tool in crafting a story, sometimes our imaginations need a little external stimulus to help light the spark. So what sort of external stimulus can be helpful in sparking a good short story idea?

Hint: Eavesdropping

Polite society will tell us it is wrong to listen in on other people’s conversations, but a sly bit of eavesdropping every now and then can be quite invaluable for a writer.

The people in the world around us – whether they be on a train to the city, on the phone in the supermarket, or enjoying a family barbeque in the park – provide an exceptional case study of human character and behaviour. By acting as an observer of daily life, and fusing together what we see and hear with our own imaginations, we can come up with all sorts of story ideas we may otherwise have never considered.

An example of this practice can be seen in ‘Rest Stop’; a short story by Stephen King, published in his collection, ‘Just After Sunset’. This story follows the experience of a writer who stops at a service station to use the bathrooms, only to find himself witness to a case of domestic violence. The writer then faces the tough decision of whether to play hero and intervene, or whether to save himself from a possible beating of his own, hop back in his car, and drive away.

In the notes provided by Stephen King in the back of the book, he admits to this idea sparking from an experience of his own, in which he stopped at a rest stop and overheard a couple engaged in a very heated argument. King writes:

“They both sounded tight and on the verge of getting physical. I wondered what in the world I’d do if that happened…”

In other words, King started with an overheard conversation (or, in this case, argument), then used his imagination to ask himself ‘What if…?’ – ‘What if the argument developed into a physical fight? What would a writer, much like myself, do in this situation?’. ‘Rest Stop’ is therefore an excellent example of how the odd bit of eavesdropping can help fuel our imaginations, and allow us to create an engaging short story.

Hint: Use a memory/experience of your own

‘Rest Stop’ is also a good example of how we can use our own experiences/memories as a starting point for a short story. Possibly the greatest advantage of this technique is the degree of tangibility it lends to our work.

For example, in ‘Rest Stop’, King is able to create a detailed description of the setting by providing a strong vision of the missing children posters, tacked up all over the walls. This attention to finer detail, pulled from King’s own memory, allows the reader to feel as though they are seeing the service station for themselves. It is more realistic, more tangible, more believable.

Of course, any fictional setting/event can be made to feel this way with the inclusion of finer detail, but starting with a memory is great practice. Once you can describe how something looked, felt, smelt, sounded or tasted in your own experience, the better you will be able to describe the fictional experiences of your characters. Try searching your mind for a very clear memory of your own. What did you see? What did you feel? What did you smell? Now use this memory to construct a short story by throwing in the ‘What if?’ question. For example, ‘What if this character had a similar experience?’

Hint: Read the daily papers

They say fact is stranger than fiction, and in no place is this more evident than in the daily news. Like eavesdropping, newspapers and news reports can also provide writers with an interesting case study of real life. Try collecting some news clippings of extraordinary stories, and imagine a character of your own witnessing these events. How does it affect them? How are they involved? Does their experience challenge what was reported in the clipping? Perhaps experiment with different points of view – try writing the story from the varying perspectives of those involved.

Hint: Make a playlist

Another excellent prompt for the imagination is music. For example, try listening to a random song on your ipod. What mood does the song create? What images come to mind? What story do the lyrics tell? Now try writing a story around one or more of these elements.

Hint: General writing prompts

If none of these techniques seem appealing to you, the Internet is full of writing prompts that may ignite your creativity. For example, a list of writing prompts may be found at Writer’s Digest, and Creative Writing Now.

3. Experiment

Sometimes just playing around with ideas can actually lead to some of our best work. Before writing your story, try composing a few ‘test’ paragraphs. Use these paragraphs to trial a number of different voices, styles and points of view (POV). Try writing in first person, then try writing in third person, or possibly even second person (although be wary that second person narratives are rare, and difficult to do well). Experiment with different tenses. Change things around and try to find the style, voice, POV, and so on, best suited for the story you wish to create. For more on finding the right tense/POV/etc for your story, try here.

Another great way to experiment is to try free-writing. Free-writing, much like stream of consciousness, is high speed, continuous writing, free from planning or self-editing/censorship. This type of writing can unlock phrases and ideas, hidden away in our subconscious, that may otherwise prove elusive due to our tendency to over-think.

4. Plan

Despite the previous point about overthinking, there is also something to be said about the benefits of planning. Once you have a solid idea for your work, it is a good idea to plan your story. Although some writers work better with plans than others, mapping out and structuring your ideas can be a highly beneficial process. American novelist, John Gardner once wrote:

Writing a novel is like heading out over the open sea in a small boat. If you have a plan and a course laid out, that’s helpful.”

Although short stories may not seem as epic an expedition as a novel, the overall structure of the genres are not so different. Like the novel, a short story is a form of prose narrative, expected to contain a beginning, middle and end. Thus, just as it is helpful to plan a novel, it is also helpful to plan a short story.

Essentially, what a plan does is provide us with a ‘print preview’ of our work. It allows us to see clearly any kinks or problems we may need to smooth over before we commit our story to its final form. (For more on the benefits of planning, read this Writer’s Edit’s article on How To Plan Your Book.) You can plan in whatever way is most helpful to you – whether this be mind-mapping, jotting down your key plot points, writing character profiles, or mapping out the order of events. You may also want to try planning your story using Freytag’s Five Stage Story Structure as a guide.

5. Know the Specifics

If you are composing your short story with the hope of publishing, it is important to take care of the finer details. For instance, who are you writing for? Some writers set out to write a short story with a particular magazine or publication already in mind. However, it is often best not to write this way, unless you have already been commissioned to do so. Writing with a sole publication in mind could not only restrict/limit your story, but could also be potentially devastating if the publication in question decides not to publish. Instead, it is often far better to write the story that feels right for you, then search for magazines that suit the tone/feel of your work, rather than the other way around. In other words, be true to yourself, write what you’re passionate about, and eventually, you and your story will find the right home.

Nevertheless, it is important to demonstrate to any magazine you submit to that you are familiar with their publication, and their style. Before you submit anywhere, ensure you subscribe to the publication, or at least thoroughly read a number of past editions. Make sure that your story suits the publication, and be ready to convince the editors exactly why your story would be suited to their magazine.

But knowing who you’re writing for is about more than knowing the magazines you approach. It is also about knowing your audience. What genre does your story fall under? What themes/issues does it deal with? Once you know who your story will appeal to, you will be better equipped to find that ‘home’ your story is looking for. For example, if your protagonist is a teenager, and your story explores issues of coming of age/crossing the threshold into adulthood, chances are your story falls under ‘young adult fiction’. You should therefore direct your story to a magazine with a largely young adult readership. If, however, your young protagonist happens to be a skilled wizard/dragon-rider, fighting a war against evil goblins, your story’s ultimate genre is likely fantasy, and you may be better off researching which publications appeal most to fantasy readers.

Identifying your target audience, and finding ways to direct your work towards them will provide your story with the ideal environment and conditions to flourish, so always try to keep them in mind.

6. Write it!

Once you have your idea, you’ve played around with different ways of writing, and you have a clear plan for your plot/structure, you can begin to write. Often getting started is the hardest step, so try not to put this off for too long. If you need help, refer to your plan or use some of your experiments as a starting point. Remember, you can always redraft and/or edit later if you are not happy with anything you put down. The most important thing is to get started, and the rest will follow.

7. Don’t Rush

One of the biggest mistakes writers can make is to become so focussed on the end game of getting published, that they don’t take the time to perfect what they’re writing. Often the result of this is an obvious sloppiness to the work, possible plot-holes, contradictions, inconsistences, and an overall rushed feeling that doesn’t do justice to the story being told. So take your time. Don’t rush. If you want to get your story out there, create yourself a writing habit.

Set aside time each day that is purely for writing. To maximise your productivity, limit your distractions during this time. Shut off Facebook, find a room with no television (or a quiet spot outdoors), switch your phone to silent, and just get as much writing done as you possibly can. By making this a regular habit, you can afford your writing the time and focus it deserves.

8. Edit

Once you have a completely finished draft on your hands, you can begin to edit. Editing is an extremely crucial process that allows us to mould our work into its best, possible shape. It is through editing that we ensure our writing is as effective as possible. For any writer, the first step to editing is to edit your own work, however, when editing your work, it is also important to consider the feedback of others. Try taking your story along to a writing group. Writing groups are a great place to seek constructive feedback from other writers. This feedback, along with the workshop nature of these groups, can prove absolutely invaluable when revising your work. During the editing process, it is also highly beneficial to consult the advice of a beta reader. A beta reader can serve as a proof-reader, check the story for effectiveness, plot-holes, consistency, believability, and so on. If you do not already know an ideal beta reader, writing groups are a great place to meet them, so get out there!

Once you have edited, re-edited, and edited some more, you should finally find your story is in a form you are happy to call ‘finished’. Now you’re ready to try submitting your work to the magazines/publications you have properly researched as suitable for your story. This can be a daunting task, and you may well face a number of knock-backs, but if you persevere, you will eventually find that you have a published copy of your short story, right there in front of you, and for all to see.

Happy writing!

Via: http://writersedit.com/write-amazing-short-story/

Short Stories: The Top 10 Classics

10-Best-Short-Stories

Continuing on with our Writer’s Blog Short Story Week, Writer’s Edit put together a reading list of top ten classic short story recommendations. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the short story emerged as a recognised and respected literary genre throughout the 19th century. What better way to celebrate this literary form than by returning to some of the great tales and classic authors who helped shape this genre into the literary gem it is today.

Here is the pick of the top ten ‘must-read’ short story classics!:

10. ‘The Signal-Man

Author: Charles Dickens Year: 1866

Written by one of England’s greatest novelists, ‘The Signal-Man’ is an eerie ghost story about a railway signal-man who is haunted by foreboding, spectral visions.

Favourite Line: “So little sunlight ever found its way to this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell; and so much cold wind rushed through it, that it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.”

No doubt the best aspect of ‘The Signal-Man’ is the way Dickens establishes atmosphere. An example of this can be seen in the quotation above. Here, Dickens succeeds in creating a haunting, supernatural atmosphere by not only suggesting the narrator has “left the natural world”, but also by describing the setting much like a graveyard.

9. ‘The Happy Prince’

Author: Oscar Wilde Year: 1888

‘The Happy Prince’ is a melancholy tale, reflecting the style of a fairy-tale or fable – which is, after all, where short stories found their roots as a genre. The story looks at themes of love and sacrifice, wealth and poverty, and the nature of true beauty.

Favourite Line: At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.”

This line is extremely effective and moving due to the dramatic irony of the narrator’s suggestion that it was merely the frost that had broken the prince’s heart. In contrast, the reader is able to recognise that it is the prince’s sorrow, and love for the poor, little swallow that has caused the “leaden heart” to snap in two.

8. ‘The Magic Shop

Author: H.G. Wells Year: 1903

The Magic Shop is a curious tale that follows a father and son’s experience of visiting a ‘genuine magic shop’. While the little boy explores the shop, seeing only joy and wonder, his father is confronted with much more sinister visions. The story therefore examines how we experience the world as children versus how we experience the world as adults. In doing so, ‘The Magic Shop’ forces the reader to consider whether innocence and evil truly exist in the outer world, or whether these are merely determined by our own perceptions.

Favourite Line: I felt him pull at something that clung to my coat-sleeve, and then I saw he held a little, wriggling red demon by the tail – the little creature bit and fought and tried to get at his hand – and in a moment he tossed it carelessly behind a counter… ‘Astonishing what people will carry about with them unawares!’”

The symbolic implication of this line seems to sum up the overall purpose of the story. The narrator, of course, believes the demon belongs to the magic shop, yet the shop owner claims that the narrator has been carrying the little devil around himself. This therefore begs the question – is evil born of our own perceptions?

7. ‘The Gift of the Magi

Author: O. Henry Year: 1906

‘The Gift of the Magi’ is a simple story about a young, married couple’s quest to find each other the perfect Christmas gift. In securing these ‘perfect gifts’, however, each partner is forced to give up something highly valuable, and precious to them, resulting in a rather unfortunate twist.

Favourite Line: But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest.”

This line is made all the more wonderful by the contradiction of the line immediately preceding it, which suggests that the couple were extremely “unwise” for giving up their greatest treasures. The delightful contradiction forces the reader to consider how the couple could be considered both “unwise” and yet also the “wisest of all”. In doing so, O. Henry invites the reader to recognise that, although the valuable sacrifices the couple make for each other ultimately reduce their gifts to irrelevance, their sacrifices were made out of love, and are therefore the most valuable gifts of all.

6. ‘Rip Van Winkle’

Author: Washington Irving Year: 1819

After falling asleep in the woods, the ‘henpecked’ Rip Van Winkle awakes to find his village deeply changed, and is startled to discover twenty years have passed. One of the greatest, classic short stories to emerge in America, ‘Rip Van Winkle’ takes a metaphorical look at the changing American Identity following the event of the Revolutionary War.

Favourite Line: I was myself last night, but I fell asleep on the mountain, and they’ve changed my gun, and everything’s changed, and I’m changed, and I can’t tell what’s my name, or who I am!”

Through this exclamation, uttered by Rip Van Winkle, Irving perfectly captures the crisis of identity he aims to represent. Through this line, more than any other, Irving portrays America as a nation that must struggle to map out its own, unique identity, after severing its ties from the previous monarch (much like Rip, after finding himself free of Dame Van Winkle).

5. ‘Désirée’s Baby

Author: Kate Chopin Year: 1893

Set in Louisiana, prior to the American Civil War (a time when slavery was still considered ‘lawful’), ‘Désirée’s Baby’ examines the injustices of racism and gender discrimination.

Favourite Line: “But above all,” she wrote, “night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.”

The sense of karmic justice in this final line leaves the reader feeling smugly satisfied. After expelling his wife and child from their home, merely for their mixed heritage, the reader takes great delight in discovering that it is Armand himself who is not entirely of white descent. Within this ending, Chopin highlights that all people are ultimately the same, and that not one of us, for any reason whatsoever, have the right to treat another person as less human than ourselves.

4. The Body Snatcher

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson Year: 1884

Inspired by the Burke and Hare murders of 1828, ‘The Body Snatcher’ is a gothic tale that follows two med students, involved in crimes of grave robbing, in order to keep their anatomy professor supplied with instructional cadavers.

Favourite Line: We were all startled by the transformation, as if a man had risen from the dead.”

What makes this line so intriguing is the way it seems to strongly foreshadow Stevenson’s grotesque, gothic ending.

3. The Yellow Wallpaper’

Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman Year: 1892

Flying the flag for feminism in this story, Charlotte Perkins Gilman provides an interesting and unsettling exploration of the oppression of women in nineteenth century society.

Favourite Line: At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.”

The rich symbolism of the emerging wallpaper pattern as we witness the narrator’s gradual descent into madness is definitely what makes this story so memorable and effective. It is clear to the reader that, just like the woman in the wallpaper, the narrator is being held prisoner by her husband, and is desperate to break free.

2. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’

Author: Edgar Allan Poe Year: 1843

Of course, we couldn’t have a Classic Short Story list without including the ‘Father of the Short Story’ himself, Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. It is always difficult to choose only one story from such a prolific writer, but in our opinion, ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ serves as an excellent example of Poe’s prowess in the Short Story genre.

Favourite Line: “True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

What makes this story so memorable is Poe’s brilliant use of the unreliable narrator. From the very opening line (included above), the reader is given the strong sense that the narrator is not to be entirely trusted. The structure of the introductory line is erratic and disjointed, creating the impression of mad ramblings. In addition to this, the narrator plants the seed in the reader’s mind himself that he is, in fact, ‘mad’. Of course, the wonderful irony of this is that the narrator is attempting to convince the reader of his sanity, and yet with every sentence, the reader only becomes more and more certain of the opposite.

1. B24

Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Year: 1899

Anyone who has heard the name Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would know he is most famous for his hugely popular Sherlock Holmes stories. But perhaps not everyone realises what a talented, and prolific writer he truly was – particularly in the genre of the short story. The Sherlock Holmes stories themselves are, of course, exemplary of this. Of the sixty stories, chronicling the adventures of the consulting detective, fifty-six of them are short (and all sixty are well worth the read, if ever you get the chance). But for anyone who has ever wondered what this author can do outside of the Holmes stories, ‘B24’ is excellent in highlighting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a master of the short story.

Favourite Line: “I have only you to look to, sir, and if you will clear my name of this false accusation, then I will worship you as one man never yet worshipped another. But if you fail me, then I give you my solemn promise that I will rope myself up, this day month, to the bar of my windows, and from that time on I will come to plague you in your dreams if ever yet one man was able to come back and to haunt another.”

Spoken directly from the narrator to the reader at the end of the story, this line is extraordinary in a number of ways. By addressing the reader in this way (both here, and in the opening) Doyle personally drags the reader into the story and places a great deal of responsibility on his/her shoulders. In doing so, Doyle establishes an acute sense of realism in the tale, allowing the reader to feel as though the narrator can, in fact, extend beyond the page and come back to haunt them as promised. The line is also notable for the seed of doubt it places in the reader’s mind, that the narrator may be unreliable.

Written from the perspective of a thief, attempting to convince us he has been wrongly accused of murder, the assertion that he will hang himself if we, the reader, refuse to help him, makes us question the narrator’s sanity (much like the narrator in the Tell-Tale Heart). If the narrator is mad enough to hang himself if he is not listened to, perhaps the reader cannot trust his testimony after all? In this way, the reader is left wondering, do they really know who the killer is?

Keep an eye on Writer’s Blog for our upcoming third and final article, celebrating Short Story Week where we will cover how to write a short story of your own.

Via: http://writersedit.com/top-10-classic-short-stories/

 

Short Stories: Why You Should Write Them

short-story-2

“Were I called upon, however, to designate that class of composition which… should best fulfil the demands and serve the purposes of ambitious genius, should offer it the most advantageous field of exertion, and afford it the fairest opportunity of display, I should speak at once of the brief prose tale.” – Edgar Allan Poe.

The lovely people at Writer’s Edit recently had a ‘Short Story Week’ – and so, here on Writer’s Blog, we shall also celebrate and examine the literary genre of the short, prose narrative.

Why the short story?

Just what is the significance of the short story? Why is this literary form important? And why should emerging novelists be writing short stories? Perhaps these questions are best answered by returning to the opening quote.

At the beginning of this article we quote Edgar Allan Poe – often deemed the ‘Father of the Short Story’. At the time Poe was writing in 1847, the short story was just emerging as a recognised literary genre.  Clearly, Poe thought very highly of this new genre. After all, throughout the mid-19th century, he crafted some 69 short stories of his own. And indeed, the 19th century saw a boom of literary greats turn their talents to this format. Think Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, just to name a few.

What place does the short story hold in literature today?

Although most modern writers strive to find ultimate success via the novel, it could be argued that the short story is still the best medium to ‘serve the purpose of ambitious genius’ and ‘afford it the fairest opportunity of display’.

For instance, short stories can often act as an important stepping-stone in the career of a novelist. For a first-time novelist, it can be difficult to establish credibility, both with readers, and with publishers, due to a lack of previous, published work. By publishing short stories in literary magazines, a first-time novelist can build up their profile, establish a readership, and gain credibility as a writer.

What is it about the short story that serves the ambitious writer so well?

Once again, the answer to this can be found in the words of Poe.

As the novel cannot be read at one sitting, it cannot avail itself of the immense benefit of totality. Worldly interests, intervening during the pauses of perusal, modify, counteract and annul the impressions intended… In the brief tale, however, the author is enabled to carry out his full design without interruption. During the hour of perusal, the soul of the reader is at the writer’s control.”

Here, Poe indicates that the short story’s greatest advantage is its ability to be read ‘in one sitting’ – claiming that this allows the author to create his/her desired effect on the reader without being interrupted from the distractions of everyday life.

Short stories in the NOW…

Over 150 years later, Poe’s point is more relevant than ever. In a world of smart phones, social media, and high-speed Internet, it seems society’s attention span is ever-shrinking. If a writer wants to make an impression on a reader, they must do so quickly. They must be able to grab and hold the reader’s attention before the lure of the likes of Twitter chirps in their ear, and calls them away.

However, it is not only the reader’s attention we writers must fight for, but also that of literary agents, editors, and publishers as well.

Before committing their time and energy to developing us as writers, these literary professionals often wish to see examples of what we can do, however, they are also extremely busy, and often pressed for time. They will not, therefore, wish to sift through an entire novel manuscript. Instead, they will more likely be interested in shorter examples of our prose. While excerpts of longer works may still be helpful, a short story will have the advantage of ‘totality’. A literary agent/editor/publisher will be able to read a short story and develop a proper understanding of our abilities to create a complete, and unified narrative.

So, now you know the benefits of a short story, why not try writing one of your own? And keep an eye on Writer’s Blog, as we delve further into our celebration of Short Story Week – tomorrow we look at the 10 Best Classic Short Stories.

This article is part one of three in an examination and celebration of the short story form. Stay tuned for parts two and three!

Via: http://writersedit.com/write-short-stories/

The Golden Rules of Successful Writing (Warning: Contains Sarcasm)

Golden-Rules

For those of you who are either contemplating becoming an author or are writers who want to get  to bestseller status super fast, I thought I would share with you what I believe to be the ten prime factors that are necessary for book writing and publishing success.

Some of these ten vital points are highly technical, while others require hours and hours of practice and perfection, but I am sure you will see the benefits very quickly once you start following my advice. Ready?

The Golden Rules for Successful Book Writing:

1. Add Blank Pages

Always include a lot of blank pages at the back of the book because this makes your book look thicker, so it looks like much better value to book buyers. With Ebooks, this trick works nicely too, by making the percentage read line a lot longer, so readers will be duped into thinking that they have a lot more pages to read than they actually have left. With some books, reaching the end sooner than anticipated might even be a relief for the reader. 

2. Make Clear Mistakes

Be consistent with your typos and spelling mistakes. According to Cambridge University, the reader’s brain will adjust quickly enough. For example:

Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

3. Exploit your Mother

Always dedicate your book to your mother. It dramatically increases the aawwww factor, and also gives you an opportunity to include yet another blank page after it.

4. Change Your Name

If you have a long name, change it. Bestselling authors must restrict their names to six letters or less so that it can be seen in enormously tall, bold letters on the front cover. Long names reduce the font height by an exponential factor for each letter after the sixth. If your name is ten letters or more, expect readers to need a magnifying glass to find it on the cover. Meaningless initials are also, of course, mandatory.

5. Age Quickly

If you are under fifty, do not put a photo of yourself on the back cover. Writers must look mature, experienced, sage and well, old. If you really want your photo on the back cover, do a bit of magic with Photoshop to add some wrinkles, glasses and grey hair.

6. Ditch the Narrative

Use a lot of dialogue in your book because it takes up a lot more page space, and helps with point one in making your book thicker. Narrative tends to be in tidy, solid paragraphs, so stay clear on neat, economical space saving paragraphs as much as possible. Use brief, very short dialogue lines of only a few words, and you will have written a tome in no time at all. For instance:

“It’s easy,” he said.

“I agree,” she said.

7. I Love This Book

Get your very best friend, mother or spouse to write the book review blurb for the back of your book because they love you and will only say very nice things about you and your book. They probably never got around to actually reading your masterpiece, but who cares.

8. And, But, So

Use very short, simple words. Words comprising of over six letters can be confusing for some readers. Interminably elongated words foreshorten your probable market prospective to exclusively those readers with an elevated intelligence quotient. Have I made my point clear.

9. Punctuation

Always start a sentence with a Capital letter, and try to remember the full stop (period) at the end. It helps readers navigate the text a little better. Avoid using semi-colons though; as no one really knows how to use them. If in doubt about your punctuation — use an em dash — as it always works.

10. The Story, One Hopes

Make sure you have some sort of story to tell and that you don’t just copy and paste stuff that isn’t yours. Three hundred pages of Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, sapien platea morbi dolor lacus nunc, nunc ullamcorper. Felis aliquet egestas vitae, nibh ante quis quis dolor sed mauris. Erat lectus sem ut lobortis, adipiscing ligula eleifend, sodales fringilla mattis dui nullam has proven not to sell very well, even though, admittedly, it does speed up the process of writing a hell of a lot.

11. Bonus Rule: The End

Readers seem to like having a neat ending to a story, so make sure you tidy up all the loose ends that you created in your story and don’t just leave…

Via: https://www.justpublishingadvice.com/the-ten-golden-rules-of-successful-book-writing/

Are things getting worse for women in publishing? | The Guardian

women in publishing

Today on Writer’s Blog, a very interesting article from The Guardian about Women in Publishing:

When Edie and Eddie started work as junior editors in the same corporate book publisher, they had much in common: firsts from Oxbridge and career ambition. And a passion for books and ideas. When Edie saw her role model moved out of the chief executive’s office to be replaced by a man, the two joked about what it took to get to the top.

But as both observed the same thing happen at one publishing house after another, the joke wore thin. And Eddie, frustrated at the lack of promotion, changed. “He donned a suit and began to walk and talk like the men he saw getting on in the business and suddenly things changed for him,” Edie recalls. “It was as simple as that.”

To her, it seems that “all you need to get on now is to be a suited and booted man, who looks like he has an MBA. They remind me of David Cameron and George Osborne. All of them are white, middle class and presentable.” She pauses. “And male of course, which is definitely something I cannot aspire to be.” (Edie and Eddie are not real names, but like many of the people interviewed for this piece, Edie did not wish to be identified.)

This is a harsh assessment of UK publishing; an industry that had comforted itself that the one area of diversity it need not address was gender. A 2016 survey of the gender divide in US publishing found 78% of the industry is female (no UK-wide survey has yet been done). But the same survey found that, at executive or board level, 40% of respondents were men. And Edie is not alone in the frustration she feels over the split at board level: there is growing disquiet among the rank and file.

This is not to say that women have left the boardroom completely. But, as one senior female editor notes, women such as Random House’s Gail Rebuck, Penguin’s Helen Fraser, Macmillan’s Annette Thomas and Little, Brown’s Ursula Mackenzie, who had all embodied the ideal that women publishers faced no glass ceiling, have in the last five years all been replaced by men. “There is a problem, because you get the sense with the remaining women in senior management that they have gone as far as they are going to go, and in every case they are answerable to clean-cut, fortysomething men,” the editor adds.

The disquiet felt within publishing is not just about the higher echelons becoming as white, male and middle class as other industries, but that the sector looks less welcoming to outsiders, be they female, Bame (black, Asian and minority ethnic) or disabled. And, as a creative field, publishing has grown on the back of entrepreneurs and visionaries. “Publishing should be about new ideas, about difference and innovation, but these men are all about the optics,” says another female publisher, who works in the middle ranks of one of the big three houses. “They seem to be chosen because they look good on a corporate prospectus rather more than anything else. Even the great men of publishing – the Victor Gollanczes, Allen Lanes and Andre Deutsches – would not have fitted in to this world.”

Though half the boards of the big houses are comprised of women, in almost every case, they are in charge of more traditional roles: publishing, communications, human resources or educational divisions. Look at the magical “c-circle” of group chief executive, group chief operating officer and group chief finance officer – where the real power lies – and women are notably absent.

Publishers say this is simply down to a generation of women retiring and the amalgamation of publishing houses, which has left fewer c-circle jobs to compete for. It certainly does not mean women are losing ground. “In the bigger corporate publishing houses, the divisional managing directors, who are the people making the publishing decisions, many are women,” says Lis Tribe, group managing director for Hodder Education, part of the Hachette UK group. “There are five [female] divisional managing directors or chief executives at Hachette and six [divisions] are run by women at Penguin Random House (PRH).”

Tribe, who has recently taken the president’s role at the Publishers Association, is adamant there is no problem with women getting to the top. Others disagree. “Yeah, right!” laughs one woman who asked to be unnamed, having left corporate publishing to set up her own business. “There is also a tendency that we tend to recruit in our own image,” she says. “You have a lot of white, middle- and upper-class, privately educated men selecting other white, middle-class, privately educated men now. It has a chilling effect.”

There is a persistent gender pay gap in publishing, which in the last survey by Bookcareers.com was revealed to be 16% in the UK. This is regarded as evidence that men take a disproportionate number of higher paying executive roles to women. “I find it really depressing that after all these years we are still having the same conversations about pay and diversity. Nothing has changed,” says Bookcareers.com’s Suzanne Collier.

Simple sexism is not the sole cause of the problem: mergers have left most of British publishing in the hands of three large, global media companies – Hachette, Bertelsmann-owned PRH, and HarperCollins, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire. This has not just left fewer influential jobs for women, but has led to a change in the kind of beast who does rises to the top. Kate Wilson, who set up independent children’s publisher Nosy Crow after leaving Hachette-owned Hodder seven years ago, sums it up: “In my 30 years in publishing I have seen the corporatisation of publishing and it is not helpful to women.”

But sexism is there. “There is a point in women’s careers where, if they have kids, they are sidelined,” Wilson says. Because publishers are now making it into management at a younger age, at the critical point when the top tier opens up, many women are taken out of the career loop by children, leaving men to leapfrog them. On their return, they are usually juggling childcare and work in a way that many of their male contemporaries are not. “What is a farce is that at the same point, in your 30s and early 40s, men still seem to be untrammelled by family life and that helps in their careers,” adds Wilson, who made it a central aim of Nosy Crow to encourage flexible working – and the majority of her staff are now female.

But corporate publishing’s loss has been independent publishing’s gain. Wilson is among a band of women who have started independent businesses that not only allow them to better juggle professional and home commitments, but also to exercise their creativity in a way the tiers of management in global businesses do not allow. It is one of the reasons that the most interesting and innovative books coming out are from independents – whether Juliet Mabey at Oneworld with her Booker winners Marlon James and Paul Beatty, the translated fiction choices of Meike Ziervogel’s Peirene Press or Miranda West’s Do Books Company’s publishing list, based on the Do Lectures “encouragement network”.

“It is an interesting opportunity for independents like us because we are able to take account of some of the other things that women want to do, such as working part-time or more flexibly,” Wilson says. “The number of talented women who have been wasted because they can’t find a role in corporate publishing is astonishing.”

***

The Original Article can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/are-things-getting-worse-for-women-in-publishing

How To: Develop Good Writing Habits

Small-e1424109702993

I have this idea, every once in a while, that I need to improve my habits. I need to drink more water, get more fresh air, walk the dog. I don’t even have a dog.

So you can imagine what happens when I read a blog or a book or a helpful message telling me I need to get up earlier to write first thing in the morning.

This is, they assure me, the path to all that is right and good. If you just get up earlier, you can gain a whole hour in your day. I hear, and I start nodding along.

Yes! Great idea, an hour earlier. I will just get up and start writing. Never mind that my brain has not yet switched on at that hour. Never mind that I cannot find three words to string together.

The quiet, the lack of interruption, the feeling that I am absorbing the secrets of the sleeping universe will make it all worthwhile. A bucket of coffee will help.

But while “more writing” gets a big thumbs-up from me, “less sleep” does not. Less sleep is on my list of Things That Lead to Certain Doom.

My best intentions – having shiny good habits, being an early bird, getting all the worms, etc – turn into burning the candle at both ends, and that much fire will turn your life into a disaster zone real quick.

That is not the habit for me.

It always takes me a few days to remember this.

I don’t have to write at the time someone else tells me I should. I can write at my own pace, at the times and places that work best for me.

I don’t have to do what someone else does. I don’t have to write as fast as someone else does. I don’t have to write as much as someone else does. I don’t have to write as often as someone else does.

A writing habit is a gift, but it can become a burden if you’re doing it in a way that doesn’t fit you.

You don’t need to follow someone else’s plan, and you don’t need to go big when you first jump in. You can start small and make it sustainable. You can learn about yourself as you go, and you can make new plans with what you learn.

Know Your Why

The reason you write might not be the same as mine, or as anyone else’s.

Are you writing to preserve memories? To process a trauma? To connect with others? To build a creative habit?

Your why can help you decide what your writing practice should look like, and will keep you motivated as you continue.

Start With Tiny

Once you know why you’re doing this, set a goal so small that you can hardly help but meet it. Starting small makes it easier to continue, and it makes you feel successful.

So: type one new sentence. Or open your journal to a clean sheet, and title the page. Or read the last paragraph you wrote, and add the next sentence. Goal complete. (But feel free to keep going.)

If you want to get up earlier, try ten minutes instead of an hour. If you want to start writing every day, try 100 words before you commit to 500.

Small matters. Small gets you started, and small adds up!

Reclaim Your Minutes

Instead of setting up a whole new daily routine, can you find a few minutes in your day that won’t be missed? Your (non-driving) commute, lunch hour, naptime? While waiting in the car?

Is there a time to think and plan – while you wash dishes, fold laundry, drive, shower?

Repurposing the minutes you have will get you going, and help you figure out what you need to continue.

Adjust As You Go

Maybe you’ll learn that early morning is not your best writing time. (Ahem.) Maybe you’ll discover that you love journaling on a park bench while your kids swing. Maybe you’ll find that you need quiet alone time to get the words flowing.

It’s okay to make adjustments. It’s okay to try something different. It’s okay if the thing you try doesn’t work out. You can make changes, you can try again.

Your writing habit is a gift to you. It doesn’t need to measure up to someone else’s ideal.

I don’t want to get up before the sun. You don’t have to stay up until after midnight. (Although I might.) You can do what works for you.

Start small. Make adjustments. And let this gift be your own.

Via: http://thegiftofwriting.com/2015/02/develop-writing-practice/

Writing Prompts: Write a Movie Scene

movie-theatre

When I’m on a roll, writing is like watching a movie in my mind’s eye and all I have to do is jot down the details. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I have to try and make it last as long as I can. It’s easy because it’s all right there in front of me: the setting, characters, dialogue, imagery.

This writing prompt takes this amazing writing sensation literally. Instead of writing from your imagination you’ll be writing from something that’s already been created. This exercise plays with the idea of interpretation and representation, getting you to approach writing in a new way.

Write from a movie

Think of one of your favourite movies and pick a scene that you love. It can be a moment that’s very quiet but loaded with emotion, something that’s action packed – anything that takes your fancy. You don’t have to watch the scene again, but you can if you want to.Now write the scene as if it were a piece of prose. Don’t worry about the fact that the scene and characters you’re writing aren’t ‘yours’ – this is just exploration and fun for yourself, not for overt plagiarism or publication. Here are some things to take into account:

  • Creative descriptions of the visual surroundings and characters.
  • Translating dialogue from the aural to the written word.
  • Characters internal thoughts (this is where you can get imaginative).

When you’re done turning your movie scene into a prose piece, try turning it into a poem. Take the narrative and the descriptions and cut them down to their barest forms (yes, this means killing your darlings) and play with line breaks and structure. Even if you’re ‘not a poet’, have a go anyway; broadening your writing horizons is great for keeping your creativity fresh.

This writing prompt is a bit of fun to get you thinking about texts in new ways, considering how to manipulate them into different forms and seeing how you can accurately write what you see (whether you’re seeing it in real life, in a play or film, or in your mind).

Happy writing!